Petitions to see harsher punishments for pet thieves to be debated by MPs
- Credit: Archant
After a series of high-profile dog thefts across Suffolk and Essex, MPs are to consider tougher punishments for thieves who target pets.
Thousands of Suffolk people have signed two national petitions which are to be debated in parliament on October 19 with proceedings led by Ipswich MP Tom Hunt.
The debate comes after it was revealed that more dogs – some of them of high value in cash terms and all precious to their owners – were stolen in the first seven months of 2020 in Suffolk than the whole of 2019.
A Freedom of Information (FoI) request showed that 46 dogs were stolen in the county during 17 thefts between January and July this year up from 21 dogs in the whole of 2019.
The most shocking incident involving dog thefts in Suffolk took place in July at Fiveways Boarding Kennels and Cattery in Barton Mills.
Two litters of puppies and several other dogs, who were staying at the boarding kennels, were stolen by “heartless” thieves.
The first petition, which received more than 143,000 signatures, asks for a revision to the sentencing guidelines in the Theft Act 1968 to ‘reclassify pet theft as a specific crime’.
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It also requests that the law “ensures that monetary value is irrelevant for the categorisation of dog and cat theft crime for sentencing purposes”.
In response, the government said “The sentencing guidelines now take account of the emotional distress and harm that theft of personal items such as a pet can have on the victim and recommends higher penalties for such offences.”
West Suffolk saw the most signatures attached to the petition, with nearly 1,000 people supporting the cause. Bury St Edmunds and Suffolk Coastal also saw more than 1,100 signatures between the two districts.
The second petition, which received more than 117,000 targets the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
It also asks that Pet Theft becomes a specific crime and calls for courts to recognise “the fear, alarm or distress to the pet and owners” rather than monetary value.
The debates will be anchored by Tom Hunt who is a member of the Petitions Committee.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be sending a Minister to respond.